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Sound Ideas #39 - Jazz in TV
Welcome to a celebration of jazz inspired television scores from the TV code era. The good and bad guys are crystal clear, and the music is swinging. Thanks for stopping by.
Artist Track Album
Dianne Reeves TV is the Thing This Year Good Night and Good Luck
Pete Rugolo Richard Diamond The Music of Richard Diamond
Count Basie M Squad Thriller Jazz
Elmer Bernstein Sweet Smell of Success Movie and TV Themes
Henry Mancini Peter Gunn The Music From Peter Gunn
Dave Brubeck Mr. Broadway Jazz Impressions of New York
Ron McCroby Mayberry RFD The Other Whistler
Elmer Bernstein Saints and Sinners Movie and TV Themes
Nelson Riddle Route 66 Theme <single>
Homer Simpson Homer Simpson Flintstone  
Herb Ellis and Ray Brown The Flintstones Soft Shoe
Lalo Schifrin Mission Impossible Music from Mission Impossible
Branford Marsalis The Ballad of Chet Kincaid Crazy People Music
Quincy Jones Ironside Smackwater Jack
Johnny Costa Won't You Be My Neighbor? Plays the Music of Mister Rogers Neighborhood
Johnny Costa It's Such a Good Feeling Plays the Music of Mister Rogers Neighborhood

During the golden and post-golden age of TV from the 1950s through the mid-1970s many jazz artists found a home for their talents as the world of popular music became obsessed with Rock, Soul, Funk, and ultimately Disco. In particular, big city cop shows while spinning a yarn that was very black and white, good vs. bad, had some very colorful soundtracks orchestrated by the talents of Count Basie, Nelson Riddle, Pete Rugolo, Henry Mancini, Shorty Rogers, Oliver Nelson, and Quincy Jones, amongst others. Although ultimately the works were music for a setting, or the setting of a theatrical tone, the music itself was much more than just a background. In this hour, we will explore some of the musical backdrop of the Code of Good Practice era of television; you might just rediscover a gem that you had forgotten about.

Good Night and Good Luck was all about TV, Edward R. Murrow, to be exact and from the soundtrack Dianne Reeves gives us an updated cover of the song that captured the mindset of the US during the mid to late 1950s. Much as the Internet transformed the 1990s, TV did so some four decades earlier.

Our second set features four swinging big bands and equally large TV personas. Pete Rugolo empowered the cool Richard Diamond; the kid from Red Bank (the Count) captured the grit and swing of Chicago's Frank Ballinger; Elmer Bernstein's score musically described The Sweet Smell of Success; and Henry Mancini musically stated the obvious about Peter Gunn.

Dave Brubeck provided the backdrop with a musical dry martini for Mike Bell, AKA Mr. Broadway; Ron McCroby skillfully covers one of the most memorable tunes ever, the theme from the Andy Griffith show; Elmer showcases the truth behind Nick Alexander of Saints and Sinners; and Nelson Riddle exudes the cool factor of Tod Stiles and Buzz Murdoch with their journeys along Route 66.

Our fourth set highlights the musical depth of many TV themes and the ease in which these tunes provide a vehicle for jazz improvisation. I've Got Rhythm is the basis for much of jazz, a message that even Homer Simpson understood while Fred Flintstone knew it even in the stone age. As one of his many scoring projects during the 1960s, Lalo Schifrin treats us to the full rendition of Mission Impossible, Branford Marsalis updates Hikky Burr and pays tribute to the first Bill Cosby show, and master orchestrator Quincy Jones parlays an early use of a monophonic synthesizer into the unforgettable theme of the baddest detective to ever ride a wheel chair.

One show that did perhaps more to showcase jazz on TV was Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Although often overlooked, the piano trio of Johnny Costa provided a soundtrack that was child friendly, never condescending, and a musical masterpiece. Few pianists could play with the accuracy and ferocity of Johnny; something only reinforced by his rarely ever agreeing to a second take of a performance. While a brilliant player with the talent and skill of an Art Tatum or Oscar Peterson, he rarely traveled far from his home in western Pennsylvania, where he and a few other unsung jazz virtuosos (including Joe Negri) found contentment in delivering world class jazz to an audience whose age was comfortably counted in the single digits. We hear the most famous intro and closing themes as performed by Johnny and his trio.

Jazz is one of the few true American art forms, as are Hollywood movies, and their corollary, early television. As a result, it shouldn't be all that surprising that Jazz would be an interwoven part; however, when listened to by themselves, the musical depth becomes apparent, no matter how deeply hidden these sonic treasures have been within the totality of the television show.